The Republican theft of our Democracy continues unabated.
On the same day of the decision upholding Pennsylvania's voter suppression law, the Department of State under Republican governor Tom Corbett has quietly killed a program to increase voter turnout and registration efforts online.
HARRISBURG - On the same day a judge cleared the way for the state's new voter identification law to take effect, the Corbett administration abandoned plans to allow voters to apply online for absentee ballots for the November election and to register online to vote.
A spokesman for the Department of State said county elections officials told the agency that implementing the new online initiatives as well as voter ID requirements was too much to handle less than three months before the election.
Put simply, it is suddenly more of a priority for Corbett to suppress the vote than it is to increase turnout. I wonder why that is.
There were two efforts underway in Pennsylvania to move forward with online registration. The first was legislation proposed in May by a presumably utterly naive Republican state senator who actually believed increasing voter turnout was a real goal for his party. Corbett paid lip service to this effort, saying he was "reviewing" it. Having learned the value of delay from his non-existent investigation of the Sandusky scandal, he of course did nothing, even with the 2012 election looming as an obvious motivation. The other initiative was a supposedly internal effort that allegedy was too complicated by "IT problems," problems which now apparently can't be solved in the three months before the election.
By killing the initiative to register absentee voters online, an initiative which makes eminent sense under any rational analysis, Corbett has undermined one of the justifications used by Judge Simpson in upholding this noxious legislation in the first place:
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In his decision, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. noted that the law already allows for absentee ballots for those facing difficulty in getting to the polls. In referring to two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, he noted that "absentee balloting is probably available to them."
Corbett just ensured that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under his regime isn't about to allow obtaining an absentee ballot, let alone allowing voter registration, to get any easier.
After all, it's "just too much to handle." Making it more difficult for people to vote is hard work.
Stephanie Singer, the top elections official in Philadelphia, said she was unaware that there was an issue with setting up a system to allow voters to register and apply for absentee ballots online, and said shifting more activity online would actually make for less paperwork.
Ten states have implemented such initiatives, with unquestonable savings and increased voter registration. Here is Arizona's experience:
Arizona, the first state to implement online voter registration in 2003, has seen dramatic savings since converting from a paper-only system, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures study.
The costs associated with a paper registration there totaled 83 cents, while the cost of an online registration is 3 cents.
Arizona's secretary of state reported that more than 70 percent of all voter registrations are now performed online and that the state saw an increase of 9.5 percent in voter registrations from 2002 to 2004 because of the conversion.
There's no debate that this process would save the Commonwealth money and would permit more Pennsylvanians to participate in the political process, particularly now that they are unnecessarily forced to scramble to meet an identification criteria many simply cannot satisfy. There are no "security" issues that haven't been overcome by the ten states that have already adopted these measures.
But that's never been what this about.
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